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Israel 2013: Netanyahu preaches the lessons of Rabin's murder

And nobody objects.

PM Netanyahu, with President Peres and Supreme Court President Grunis (L) at the official Rabin memorial, Mount Herzl, October 16, 2013. (Photo: GPO/Mark Neyman)

I was listening on the radio to the prime minister’s speech in the Knesset on Wednesday for the 18th anniversary (on the Hebrew calendar) of the Rabin assassination, and it just struck me how far we’ve come in this country. Bibi Netanyahu is now preaching to Israel the lessons of Rabin’s murder. And nobody says anything. Members of the Rabin family sitting in the Knesset, whatever they were thinking, didn’t say a word. Neither did the MKs of the Labor Party or Meretz, or MK Ahmed Tibi or anybody else who lived through that time and understands what was wrong about the scene taking place. Nobody in the whole country saw anything about it worth mentioning. That’s the way it is now – Netanyahu preaches to Israel the lessons of the Rabin assassination with all the fake pathos he can muster up, and anybody who’s got a problem with that shuts up, and everybody else, the great majority, accepts it as natural and right.

Many in Israel, myself included – even those who disagreed with him from time to time – always appreciated his profound loyalty to the State of Israel, and saw how he wanted and worked towards its benefit. Rabin knew how to stand determinedly for Israel’s interests as he understood them, and he represented the country with pride.

I was standing toward the front of a huge crowd at an anti-Oslo rally in Jerusalem in 1994, and the chants of “Rabin boged!” (“Rabin is a traitor!”) were so loud that Netanyahu, speaking at the microphone on the stage, had to pause a few times until the roar died down so he could hear himself.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the infamous “Zion Square rally” in Jerusalem, October 1995. (Screenshot)

After Netanyahu won the election in 1996 and became prime minister, then-Labor MK Dalia Itzik said she could not bear the thought that he was sleeping in Rabin’s bed. This was what made his election victory over Peres that year, eight months after the murder, so unspeakable – Netanyahu had metaphorically “murdered and also inherited,” in the Biblical phrase that was often applied to him. This was something that was understood for years after the assassination; Netanyahu’s role as leader of a toxic opposition to the Oslo Accords, as the ringmaster of that satanic circus, followed him wherever he went.

But then, in 2000, the Oslo Accords imploded in the second Intifada and suddenly the Rabin assassination lost its political meaning, its power to mobilize people. It was still sad, tragic, criminal that he was killed, of course, but the cause he died for will not be missed. Rabin was wrong and the opposition, even if they went too far at times, was right. So let’s forget about the political reason for his murder, let’s keep politics and the assassination separate, let’s speak of unifying things like tolerance and the rule of law, and let’s mourn the Rabin everyone can admire.

He was a fighter and a commander in the Palmah; Chief of General Staff of the IDF and one of the liberators of Jerusalem; ambassador to the United States; Prime Minister; man of defense and man of peace.

(We all want peace, nothing divisive about that.)

Rabin worked very hard as Chief of General Staff, Minister of Defense and Prime Minister to ensure the strength of the IDF as an essential instrument for safeguarding our future and achieving peace with our neighbors.

It was the old Rabin whom Netanyahu was praising – Rabin the militarist. The Rabin of the Oslo Accords, who stood for two years against the Right’s shrieking onslaught and told them where to get off until, to everyone’s shock but no one’s surprise, he was killed – that Rabin was blacked out of the presentation. If somebody who knew nothing about the murder had heard Netanyahu’s speech, he would think Rabin must have been killed by someone from Peace Now.

But that’s Israel today, and nobody objects, nobody even notices. Bibi has gone from being the villain of the Rabin assassination to being the official keeper of the flame. The problem is not that Israelis have forgotten the murder, the problem is that the “murderer has also inherited” over and over again. And there’s no sign of him giving up his inheritance; when he finally does, he’ll very likely pass it to an heir of his choosing. Maybe one day an Israeli prime minister will name a West Bank settlement after Rabin. Why not? History, as was illustrated so starkly in the Knesset this week, is written by the winners.

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    1. Danny

      I was thinking the same thing. Netanyahu is absolutely shameless. I doubt he even understands the meaning of the word ‘shame’. Then again, is there any politician in Israel who does?

      Reply to Comment
      • That is his dominant characteristic. During his first term, Benny Begin said it publicly: “He has no shame.”

        Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      Off-topic here, but I think it’s worth a mention: Peres is looking downright decrepit in the last few years; in the picture above, he looks like he’s about ready to join his good friend Rabin in the afterlife. One can only guess at the platitudes Netanyahu will shower on him when his time comes.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Average American

      Rabin? You mean Rubitzov, the foreigner from Ukraine? Being praised by Mileikowsky, the foreigner from Poland, who incited fellow ultra-nationalist right-wingers to Rubitzov’s death?

      The foreigner Rubitzov from Ukraine being preceded by the foreigner Mabovitch from Russia (who called herself Meir to try to sound local) and by the foreigner
      Grun from Poland (who called himself BenGurion to try to sound local).

      All this due to religious delusional fanatic beliefs that these foreigners should not retreat from “our land given to us by God”.

      Reply to Comment
      • Marcos

        Why does the state of Israel (and the people who live there) irk you so much? Was it that some people Hebrewised their last names?

        Reply to Comment
        • Tzutzik

          He (Mr Verage) wants to know, “what” as he puts it, “makes Israel special”?

          “What?”, “what?”, “what?” …

          He repeated this several times in apparent desperation. Poor guy, he is besotted and obsessed by Israel and he wants us to return to Ukraine 🙂

          Of course when I ask him why a person with his views does not return to the old country and leave America to the native American Indians? His silence is deafening.

          He, like all Nazis, is a hypocrite. Will someone put him out of his misery and give him an answer to his question? Even I am beginning to feel sorry for him even though I dislike him.

          Oh but wait a minute … is there an answer?

          Reply to Comment
      • Kibbutznik

        a real average american 😉

        Yitzhak Rabin was born here and was an atheist .

        Reply to Comment
      • sh

        Ah, another one of those.

        People who think there is great significance in this argument have a hard time understanding that in Golda’s case, she went by the name of Mabovitch until she married a Mr. Myerson, after which she would have had to wage a heroic administrative battle in a turbulent region in order NOT to be called Myerson (a patronymic). As for Myer, it’s local spoken dialect for Meir. When written in Hebrew characters, both are identical.

        In all cases:
        “Jews have historically used Hebrew patronymic names. In the Jewish patronymic system the first name is followed by either ben- or bat- (“son of” and “daughter of,” respectively), and then the father’s name. (Bar-, “son of” in Aramaic, is also seen). Permanent family surnames exist today but only gained popularity among Sephardic Jews in Iberia and elsewhere as early as the 10th or 11th century and did not spread widely to the Ashkenazic Jews of Germany or Eastern Europe until the 18th and 19th century, where the adoption of German surnames was imposed in exchange for Jewish Emancipation.”

        “Although Ashkenazi Jews now use European or modern-Hebrew surnames for everyday life, the Hebrew patronymic form is still used in Jewish religious and cultural life. It is used in synagogue and in documents in Jewish law such as the ketubah (marriage contract).”

        Average American, neither Palestinan nor Jew is going to drop ties to this area. Time to recognize that, put the fists back in the pockets and make something out of it.

        Reply to Comment
        • Average American

          You are probably right. Do you think it will be a two-state solution then? Neither side giving up much in compromise?

          Reply to Comment
      • i am a black american,i love the jewish people and israel,i dont like dissenters among jews,the bible speaks of this type of person. i happily sent a small piece of money everymonth,if i had millions id send it.i like bibi your just jealous of him,your lucky to have him stop tearing him down at every chance you get ,look unto yourself,prophesy says something bad is coming your way pleasepull together now you gave us jesus,holy bible.i loveyou all

        Reply to Comment
    4. Richard Witty

      The tone in Israel leading up to and following the assassination was life-changing.

      Rather than respond with utter contempt for the right-wing nationalist approach following the assassination, the Israeli liberal community proceeded to stay in shock, rather than act.

      It should have been the bridge too far, that returned liberal values to Israeli politics, but wasn’t.

      The great idealism of the early 90’s until 96, died quickly.

      Netanyahu had an unusual role following his first election. Oslo was still the law of the land. He appeared publicly periodically with Arafat. He met with him. He continued the policies of restoration of Palestinian society and infrastructure as separate (after the extended period of functional annexation of the West Bank until 93), that was applied in some earnest prior.

      But, he did so in a way that disrupted progress, sticking in one obstacle here, another raid there (when Israeli raids even into area C, were rare).

      Reply to Comment